Heading to Another Historic Election

Venezuelan-Americans share how they are experiencing the media storms, the polarization, and their own memories of political unrest in the wake of the U.S. elections

Dramatic circumstances that taste like home for many Venezuelan-Americans.

Photo: Getty Images

Candi Rancel, Windermere, FL

“I’ve been living in the U.S. for two decades and there’s always pressure around you to vote for one candidate or the other, but I hadn’t seen a campaign this intense. Everything that’s happening in the country has been politicized. The American society is so polarized that to require someone to wear a mask can be perceived as an insult, while others are demanding the shutdown of police departments. In the past, everyone could say why they favored one candidate over the other, but now, even in family gatherings, anything you say can get you harassed, insulted. People stop talking to you if they disagree with you. Now, you see people talking about defending their votes with weapons!

I voted by mail and my husband in advance, after 45 minutes of waiting in line. I only hope that on November 3rd, no matter who wins, the people’s decision is respected. I trust that the Supreme Court and the Congress can stop the Executive if needed. I’m worried about the unrest coming from the radicals in both sides.”

Juan Carlos Molleda, Eugene, OR

“As a higher education administrator of a program in journalism and communication at a large, liberal college town, I’m coordinating closely with central administration how to response to the anxiety and uncertainty this election has created in our community, especially in students, on top of pivoting to remote learning, facing the pandemic, and being overwhelmed by social unrest and racism in the state and the nation. As the head of a journalism and communication school, my position is clear: I’ll defend free speech and free press, and encourage the faculty and students to debate the times we experience and the consequences of this political campaign for the present and future of the professions we serve. As a resident of a university town, I’ve participated in demonstrations, I’ve seen the intense activism of this community, and the civility in which the state of Oregon conducts and administers elections by mail, which has been discredited or challenged in other parts of the country.

This is the fourth time I vote in a U.S. election. I take my responsibility and right very seriously. I voted a few days after I received my ballot in the mail. This year, I took the sealed ballot to a ballot drop box location because I want to make sure my vote counts; I voted in advance because I had the information I needed for my choice.

My fear is that the political polarization and division remain, and even worsen, after the election. My hope, which seems to be close to reality, is that the overwhelming majority of U.S. citizens eligible to vote fulfill their responsibility and a clear winner is known sooner than later. This will make the post-election experience much more rewarding and less conflictive.”

Mónica Quintero, Miami, FL

“It’s my first time voting in the U.S. and I didn’t want to leave it for the last moment. 

Something that worries me is that the parties are becoming more radical, and the partisans more visceral and irrational. As Venezuelans, we know how that turns up in the long term. Another fear of mine is that minorities will continue to see their rights diminished. There’s a lot at stake.”

Something that worries me is that the parties are becoming more radical, and the partisans more visceral and irrational. As Venezuelans, we know how that turns up in the long term.

Valeria Colimodio, Miami, FL

“As an immigrant fleeing from a communist regime, it’s quite worrisome, the rhetoric the President uses. If I don’t make it, I won’t leave the White House sounds very familiar and very much close to home. I really hope that my vote counts this time around because I believe these elections are crucial for the sake of the democracy of this country. I voted in advance. We found it more practical because we have two toddlers and the pandemic didn’t make it attractive for us to go and do it in person, as in previous years. 

I hope Biden makes it and that we can remove him from office in four years. That’s a better and more promising vision of the future than having Trump continuing this circus for four more years.”

Carolina Acosta-Alzuru, Athens, GA

“This will be the third time I vote in a presidential election here. I’ve been intent on reading content from different political positions on media outlets and sources that I trust. I’ve also listened carefully to what the candidates say and have observed their behavior vis a vis the pandemic and the events ensued by George Floyd’s murder. In the first semester of this year, I also tried to share the basics of media literacy with Venezuelan relatives and friends, but I stopped when I realized that their exposure to disinformation and fake news is quite significant; disinformation has penetrated deeply and distorted their political thought. 

I haven’t voted yet. My husband and I requested our absentee ballots in mid-August because we knew we’d be in New York this time of the year. Three weeks ago we requested our ballots again, since they hadn’t arrived. My husband’s ballot arrived last week, mine never came. Therefore, we drove back to Georgia, where we live, so I can vote tomorrow in person. Given the COVID-19 situation and my age (62), this wasn’t my preferred option, but here I’m ready. 

My hope is that this country will vote for a change. The past four years have evidenced that Donald Trump is not the appropriate person for the presidency. I fear, of course, that Trump gets reelected. But, my biggest fear is that Trump will lose, but not concede the election. This would bring a crisis that would sweep over all aspects of this country and, therefore, engulf all of us.”

Moraima García, South Orange, NJ

“This has been a very stressful time, for me and other Venezuelans I know, especially on the Democratic side. The fact that so many Venezuelan-Americans support Trump is very disturbing and brings back the memory of division we suffered in Venezuela. It’s déjà-vu mixed with PTSD; we’ve seen intimidation tactics and misinformation to dismantle institucions, and even if Biden wins and we see immediate actions regarding coronavirus, the economy and immigration, we’ll still have a very fractured system. The hatred for the other side makes it very hard for us to have the effective government democracy needs. 

I never thought Trump would win in 2016. I guess I’ve been living in a liberal bubble in my county. In this country a big part of the elite has no idea of how’s real life for most people, but I also think we had no idea of what was happening in the Midwest, for instance, or how the fact that having a black president could spark so much fear. 

I already voted, using a drop box available in New Jersey. We try to avoid mail vote, given the risk of delays. I do hope there’s a really strong show for Biden and in the Senate, to advance towards a more comprehensive healthcare plan, and I fear what would happen if Trumps decides to denounce the results in some constituencies or his supporters resort to violence, because they’d find a response from the other side. It’s going to be a very stressful week if we don’t find out soon who won. I also fear that Biden, if he wins, can’t manage so many things this country needs to be addressed now, and what the GOP will do next, whether conservatism falls in the hands of an even crazier person than the one we have now.”

As a voter, I’ve had a really hard time identifying reliable media outlets and separating facts from all the noise surrounding this election.

Elena Cárdenas, Kissimmee, FL

“This is the second time I vote in a presidential election and this is completely different to 2016. The Biden campaign is way more intense than Hillary’s. We got at least three texts a day and lots of calls from local numbers asking if we already voted, and telling us to vote for Biden. When I registered to vote, when I became a citizen during the Obama administration, I registered myself as a Democrat, and now I regret that because I prefer to be independent. Now they’re making me crazy by telling me to vote by mail.

Almost all the people around me voted in advance. I am voting in person on November 3rd, I need time to think about my vote on the rest of the matters we’re voting about in my riding. And I want to take part in the election day. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, maybe I’m traumatized because I come from Venezuela, but I don’t trust my vote by mail. The Democrats’ insistence on that makes me suspicious. I want to see my ballot going the right way.   

I think a lot of people decided to vote for the Democrats not because they expected Hillary or Biden to be the better president, but to stop Trump. More than the way Trump has managed the economy or the pandemic, people don’t like his attitude, the way he talks about women, the immigrant children, the black people. Actually, you see more of the name Trump in the Democrats’ campaign than Biden’s, because it’s not about Biden, it’s about Trump. Is the Obamas who are making people vote for Biden. It’s too weird. What’s Biden offering me? I want to know what you, Joe Biden, are going to do besides replacing Trump. Trump’s right about that. 

What I feel is that neither Biden nor Trump are the person I’d like to rule this country.”

Juan Torres, Orlando, FL

“This is my third time voting in presidential elections and I always use the benefits of early voting. This time around is very different, compared to 2016, especially from Trump’s side. We have COVID and a mediocre work among the Republicans, regarding the campaign. They haven’t taken advantage of the clear weaknesses of Biden and the narrative has been around his character. Biden’s campaign is better organized. And there’s no common sense, everything revolves around social media and a loud extremist minority with a big media presence running the show. The future looks scary: young people are very uneducated and think socialism is the way to go.” 

Laura Santana, Miami, FL

The added stress of coronavirus and the uncertainty about the future have truly made the past couple of months very tense. As a voter, I’ve had a really hard time identifying reliable media outlets and separating facts from all the noise surrounding this election.

I voted this past Saturday (October 31st). I decided to go earlier this year to skip any potential voting lines, delays or unexpected events. Regardless of the outcome of this election, there’s crucial work that needs to happen as a society and as a country that has more weight in people’s lives than what happens in the political arena. It starts at a personal level, and extends to our immediate community. We need to understand the power and responsibility we each hold to drive change, and shape the place we want to live in. Casting a vote is just one of the toolsbut we can continue the process by actively engaging in our communities, getting informed, inviting different perspectives into our lives, fostering spaces where everyone can grow… My hope is that we can accomplish this as a society and uphold that commitment every day.”